Leadoff: Hawks fans ‘say goodbye to the arena as they know it’ tonight


Good morning. Welcome to LEADOFF, today’s early look inside Atlanta sports.

The Hawks’ final game of the season tonight also will be their final game at Philips Arena in its current form. 

The interior of the arena will be dramatically different – “from roofline to baseline,” as Hawks CEO Steve Koonin says – when next season begins. 

The arena is scheduled to close April 22, after hosting concerts April 20 and 21, for six months of construction that will complete a $192.5 million renovation. 

The Hawks’ final game of the season, at 7:30 p.m. against the Philadelphia 76ers, will be Fan Appreciation Night, replete with prizes and giveaways.

“We want to take this night to show our gratitude for (the fans’) support and allow Hawks fans to say goodbye to the arena as they know it,” Koonin said in a statement. “This fall we’ll return to give our fans the best sports and live entertainment venue in the NBA.”

The Hawks recently opened a high-tech sales center at CNN Center, where they’ll meet by appointment with prospective buyers of suites and seats. The sales center, named “The Preview” and created by Seattle-based design firm Hornall Anderson, allows visitors to explore the arena as it will exist in the fall -- with new amenities, seating options, connectivity and video boards -- through multi-media features. Our favorite: An interactive feature called “The Pit” allows 3D exploration of the post-renovation arena, going far beyond a traditional scale model. 

Almost 800 construction workers will be on the job in the arena daily through the summer, Hawks officials have said. 

For more detail on the coming Philips Arena makeover, see this recent AJC story.

* * * 

The countdown to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta reached a numerical milestone Monday: 300 days to go.

And on the same day, planning intensified for the Feb. 3 game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as a large delegation of NFL staffers, partners, contractors and vendors began four days of meetings in Atlanta. 

One of the host committee’s first big projects – the recruitment of an army of volunteers to help welcome the 1 million guests expected for a series of festivities over 10 days leading to the game -- is off to a fast start. More than 11,000 people have submitted online applications to serve as volunteers.

See full story here.

* * * 

 The Braves’ attendance increased last year, as usually happens for an MLB team in its first season in a new stadium. But this year the Braves will try to avoid another trend: a falloff in attendance in a stadium’s second season.

Before the Braves, 14 MLB teams had opened new stadiums since 2000. Eleven of the 14 teams enjoyed attendance increases in the first year. But 12 of the 14 posted attendance declines in the second year. 

Whether the Braves can buck the latter trend probably hinges on how the team plays in the coming months.

See full story here.


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